The COVID-19 pandemic made for a difficult 2020 in boxing. Some of the biggest fights we expected to see were either outright canceled or put on hold. But with a new year comes a new hope that the virus will be better controlled and lead to the sport operating as close to normal as possible. If the end of 2020 was any indication, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for fans who are hoping that the fights that have been teased can be made over the next 12 months.
Sporting News takes a look at some of the best fights that can be made in boxing and the likelihood of them coming together.
Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury
This is an obvious no-brainer as it will determine an undisputed heavyweight champion in a clash of the United Kingdom’s biggest stars. The gears have already been put in motion as both sides have agreed in principle to a clash for all the marbles. The only thing preventing Joshua-Fury is a pair of opponents who may not be willing to wait their turn. Oleksandr Usyk is Joshua’s mandatory for the WBO heavyweight title and has yet to agree to step aside, while Deontay Wilder made it clear that he’s willing to take it to court if he’s unable to get Fury to commit to a third fight.
Assuming both of those hurdles are cleared, it will be the first time an undisputed heavyweight champion will exist in the four-belt era. It’s also a scintillating clash of styles as Fury’s nimble footwork and exceptional defense will play foil to Joshua’s stunning offensive firepower. Not to mention that it’ll serve as the biggest fight in UK history. It’s the fight we want the most and the closest to reality.
Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford
Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford have been on a collision course for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, boxing’s politics continue to make this a difficult fight to put together.
Crawford has been the WBO welterweight champion since 2018 but has struggled to land one of the marquee names in the division as they are all underneath the Premier Boxing Champions promotional umbrella. The former undisputed junior welterweight champion has hovered around the top spot on boxing pundit’s pound-for-pound list for years but needs a worthy name to put him over the hump.
Spence has been brilliant throughout his professional career and has come into his own as the IBF and WBC champion. With victories over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, Spence is closing in on cleaning out the division. But one man truly stands in his way.
Between Crawford’s vicious finishing ability and Spence’s tactical excellence, this would be an epic matchup between two undefeated champions. But as long as they continue to bicker over money and act as if they don’t need each other, we’re dangerously close to this fight not happening.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and give boxing fans what they want.
Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermall Charlo
If there’s one thing that Canelo Alvarez has, it’s options. The man recognized by many as boxing’s pound-for-pound king has constructed an impressive hall of fame resume despite being only 30 and still improving. As the WBA (Super) and WBC super-middleweight champion, Canelo has expressed his desire to capture all of the titles in the 168-pound division. That would mean fights against IBF champion Caleb Plant and WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders appear to be on the horizon.
But is that the most intriguing fight for Canelo?
While fans want to see a third fight with Gennadiy Golovkin, the fact that there is bad blood and Golovkin campaigns at a weight class below could throw a monkey wrench in those plans. A name that could emerge as a potential blockbuster PPV showdown is WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, who has stated that he’s more than willing to make the climb to super middleweight to take on Canelo.
It’s an extremely marketable fight to make as Charlo is coming off of a PPV event victory and has seen his stock rise over the past couple of years. Frankly, Canelo could face any of the aforementioned names and it would be a big deal. But there’s something about the undefeated Charlo that makes a showdown intriguing.
Ryan Garcia vs. Gervonta Davis
Both fighters want it, and they appear on a collision course to make it happen. With Gervonta Davis’ violent knockout of Leo Santa Cruz and Garcia’s wicked body punch stoppage of Luke Campbell behind them, two of boxing’s brightest young stars would certainly be must-see TV.
Garcia has already proven to be a mainstream attraction, and his victory over Campbell has proven that he’s more than just an Instagram celebrity, while Davis has demonstrated immense marketability and bone-crushing power.
This may sound hyperbolic, but a Garcia-Davis fight could play out very much like a modern-day Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns. Both are extremely offensive-minded fighters with life-changing power. Davis, like Hagler, is the more compact power puncher while Garcia, like Hearns, holds a height and reach advantage to pair with his thunderous left hook.
With Garcia set as Devin Haney’s mandatory challenger and Davis currently competing at a weight class below, it may not be next. But it’s very possible it comes together at the end of the year.
Caleb Plant vs. David Benavidez
In the event that Plant is unable to land the Canelo fight, one opponent that makes a great deal of sense is the undefeated two-time WBC super-middleweight champion David Benavidez. How is Benavidez a two-time champion without ever losing a fight in the ring, you ask? Well, he was stripped the first time after testing positive for cocaine in 2018. He ended up winning the title back in 2019 when he ran roughshod over Anthony Dirrell a year later. However, he failed to make weight last August against Roamer Alexis Angulo and was again stripped of the title.
But with the bad blood the two have for each other, it makes sense to pair Plant and Benavidez sooner than later. It’s also a fantastic clashing of styles as Plant’s speed and boxing ability will be put to the test against Benavidez’s bludgeoning combination punching.
With the winner in line to face Canelo, this is absolutely the fight to make.
Jose Ramirez vs. Josh Taylor
A junior welterweight clash between WBC and WBO champion Ramirez and IBF and WBA (Super) titleholder Taylor already seems to be etched in stone as they have effectively wiped out the rest of their challengers in the division and are under the Top Rank promotional umbrella.
And it’s a showdown that would have fight fans salivating if and when it happens.
Taylor was excellent in the World Boxing Super Series as he stopped Ryan Martin and earned decisions against Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis to exit with two titles. Meanwhile, Ramirez won the vacant WBC title by defeating Amir Imam in 2018 and captured the WBO championship in a fantastic battle with Maurice Hooker in 2019.
With nobody left to turn to, it seems that we’ll get this fight sometime this spring.
Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Devin Haney
This fight needs to happen in order to settle the controversy regarding whether or not Teofimo Lopez is the undisputed lightweight champion. After shocking the world by defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko, some recognized Lopez as the undisputed champion. However, Devin Haney has held the WBC title since 2019. Things were complicated by the WBC, which made Lomachenko their “Franchise” champion while elevating Haney to “full” champion, which has only confused fans.
Rather than bicker over the distinction, the two sides may as well fight and settle it once and for all. Haney and Lopez are recognized as two of the top under-25 fighters in the world and would make for an excellent showdown.
Both have sought to prove that they are the best fighter in the world and have never shied away from a challenge. If Ryan Garcia opts to fight Davis instead of Haney, it makes a great deal of sense for these two young fighters to face off for all the marbles.
Shakur Stevenson vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko
When it comes to boxing’s young stars, Shakur Stevenson is often mentioned as the most skilled fighter of them all. But with the 135-pound division being the place where Garcia, Lopez and Haney dwell (with Davis soon to follow), Stevenson can work his way through the 130-pound division. He has already targeted Miguel Berchelt or the winner of Carl Frampton vs. Jamel Herring, but a fight with Lomachenko could come to fruition by the end of the year.
After losing to Lopez, Lomachenko’s best move is likely back down to 130 pounds, where he once reigned supreme. Should both end up fighting early in the year and come out victorious, who wouldn’t like to these two square off?
Deontay Wilder vs. Andy Ruiz Jr.
Look, as much as Deontay Wilder wants his third fight with Tyson Fury, it might make more sense to wait to face the winner of Joshua-Fury for all the marbles. In the interim, why not face the man who pulled off the massive upset over Joshua in Andy Ruiz Jr.?
Both have something to prove and had their hands on world championships. Between Ruiz’s granite chin, fast hands and alleged new commitment to boxing under Eddy Reynoso, and Wilder’s life-altering power, it’s a clash that would set the winner up for an undisputed title fight.
Make it happen!
Manny Pacquiao vs. Mikey Garcia
Everybody wants to fight Manny Pacquiao. From Spence and Crawford to Conor McGregor, the line to face a living legend is long. Considering that Pacquiao never really showed interest in facing Crawford or Spence and a fight with McGregor is a cash grab that can happen at any moment, perhaps the best fight for Pacquiao is against Mikey Garcia.
Garcia was a pound-for-pound fighter before he bit off more than he could chew against Spence. Outside of that blemish, Garcia has had a superb career as a four-division world champion. He’s a little undersized as a welterweight, just like Pacquiao, so it the matchup is just about on a level playing field.
Garcia has openly asked for the fight and rumors suggest it was close to happening in the Middle East before COVID and shouldn’t be that difficult to pull together.
The styles play right into each other as Garcia’s is somewhat reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez with his counterpunching and ring IQ while Pacquiao still has a little something left in the tank as boxing’s only eight-division world champion. A wonderful fight that could serve as one of Pacquiao’s last.
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